Politics is about ideas, not age

Once upon a time, about 15 years ago, Greeks were crying out for the removal of the «dinosaurs» from the country’s political arena. Many believed that the departure of Constantine Karamanlis, Andreas Papandreou and Constantine Mitsotakis would bring an end to the country’s woes. The dinosaurs left and indeed some problems were resolved, but others remained unresolved and a few new ones came to the fore. That is when we realized that the issue was not a politician’s age, but the political proposal which each brings to the table. Naturally, older people will look at a problem from the perspective of the past and therefore the solutions they propose may not respond to present-day needs. But this is certainly not an inviolable rule. For example, at the start of his second term in office, Andreas Papandreou, already at an advanced age, was incomparably more of a realist than he was as a younger man in his first term. Many of us failed to understand why Alekos Alavanos announced he was stepping down from the leadership of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). If the reasons are of a personal nature, then we will not dispute them. But, if they are political, then they merit some degree of analysis beyond being seen simply as stepping aside to give the younger generation a chance. Some said Alavanos had personal political motives. They say he does not want to be responsible if the party loses the support it enjoyed in last September’s elections. But it is surely too early to judge the future course of SYRIZA. In fact, if the PASOK Socialist party continues on its current course, we can safely assume that SYRIZA did not realize its full potential in September. The most likely explanation for Alavanos’s departure is the one he himself puts forward, namely that he wants to give the younger generation room for expression, and Alexis Tsipras will be the party’s proposal for the next general elections. This young man does not have a political platform of his own, he simply expresses more clearly the hazy leftist desire for a «different world.» Tsipras is just like Alavanos but comes across better on television and can reach out to those young people who generally have little to do with politics. SYRIZA’s success can be attributed to the fact that it was quick to embrace the protest movement. It played a public relations game with the very tangible problems troubling citizens and won points. But any wave of euphoria is short-lived. And reality requires concrete proposals rather than steady whining. The party will have to come up with a new platform for the next elections. Capitalizing on the discontent of the country’s youth is like investing in hedge funds: It brings quick gains in the short term, but has few long-term prospects.